MEDICAL CHILD ABUSE BY PARENTS
A recent case in Massachusetts has generated a lot of publicity in the news. A 15-year-old girl was recently ordered into a foster home by the Juvenile Court. In an article in The Courant, William Weir described the circumstances. The young lady was reportedly initially diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by doctors at Tufts Medical Center in 2011. She was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital in 2013. The doctors at Boston Children’s disagreed with the Tufts doctors and believed the girls ailments were due to psychological factors. They believed the child was being subjected to medical abuse by her parents. The parents, allegedly, believe their child’s ailments are due to her diagnosis at Tufts and she needs medical treatment. The Juvenile Court in Massachusetts recently ordered the girl put into a foster home.
A Juvenile Court Judge Heard The Evidence And Made A Decision. The Parents Must Follow The Orders Of The Court Until Told Otherwise By The Court If They Want T0 Regain Custody Of Their Child/Children
Parents and their children have court-appointed attorneys in Juvenile Court. The parents can hire a private attorney if they can afford to do so. The parents and the attorneys have the right to have a trial, present evidence, put forth experts, and cross-examine the experts on the either side. In order to remove a child from the parents’ custody, the court must be convinced to the legal standard required of the court to remove a child from their parents’ custody in their jurisdiction. In California it is by clear and convincing evidence. If the parents’ or the girl’s attorney don’t agree with the court’s ruling, they can file a writ or an appeal and take the appropriate legal steps to contest the court’s ruling. Unless reversed by a higher court, the trial judge’s rulings must be followed. Don’t wait to engage in reunification services until a higher court has ruled. It is imperative you initially accept the court’s ruling and start services as soon as possible.
When you take on child abuse experts/treating doctors from your local Children’s Hospital, in this case Boston Children’s Hospital, you had better have some very impressive experts if you have any hope of getting the court to agree with your position. The courts are used to having the child abuse doctors from their local Children’s Hospital testify before them. They have come to rely on them. This does not mean the doctors cannot be wrong, but an impressive expert must convince the court they are in error.
What Can Parents Do?
1. You must follow the court’s rulings until they are reversed by a higher court. When the court takes custody of a child from a parent, the Court, in most cases, is required to order reunification services. You will have been presented with a reunification plan from Child Protective Services (CPS) and the court agrees are the type of services they want the parents to engage in and successfully complete before returning their child. If you refuse to do what the court has ordered for services and/or refuse to work with your local CPS workers, you will likely have your reunification services terminated and will lose your child to adoption or to guardianship with a relative or friend.
We commiserate with the parents but sometimes the courts will rule against you. That is the job of a judge to listen to the evidence and make orders. In such a situation, we tell the clients we had our shot with the Court. It is now imperative you start doing what the Court has ordered. You must start services right away to show the Court, CPS, and the minor’s attorney that the return of your child to your custody is paramount with you.
2. It is no good engaging in services and telling your therapist, parenting instructor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or whomever CPS or the Court has required you to see, that CPS, the court, and all associated with the system are child stealers, they are all wrong, and use any other expletives you can think of. Those type comments will be reported back to CPS. CPS will put those comments in a court report to the judge. You will have wasted your time doing your services if you do not do them with the right frame of mind. There is nothing worse than to have a parent complete a program and receive their completion certificate only to have the social worker report they talked to the service provider and the parent said they were only doing the services because the court ordered them to do so and they did not think they were at fault or needed them.
3. Parents must understand that there are limited time periods for parents to engage in services and complete their reunification plans before the court is mandated to terminate services and to terminate parental rights. Know what those time periods are in your jurisdiction. It is not wise to delay services while you continue to fume about how the court ruled. It is imperative you do not violate any of the conditions of visitation with your child. CPS has got to get a feeling you are co-operating with them and they can trust you around your child.
4. At times in alleged medical abuse cases we see the term Munchausen by Proxy raised. This refers to situations where one or both of the parents is accused of fostering fabricated or induced illness in their children. I have no idea if that is being raised in the case of the 15-year-old girl in Massachusetts. What parents must realize in these types of cases is if one of the parents is considered the medical abuser, the other parent must be told and counseled that if they separate from the abusing parent they will have a much better chance of getting their child returned to them. Certainly if CPS believes one of the parents is an abuser and/or will not engage in or benefit from services, then CPS will do all they can to prevent the child being returned to the family while the child is still a minor. The court in such a situation will not want to return a child to a home where there is a parent who is considered at risk and did not engage in or benefit from services.
We have had a lot of success in these type cases of getting the child returned to the non-alleged abusing parent. Once that takes place it is much easier to convince the other parent to do their services so they can eventually reunify. It is a tragedy for all to see kids taken from their parents because one or both of their parents have stubbornly refused to follow the court’s orders or one parent has remained with the allegedly abusing parent. Staying with the allegedly abusing parent cancels any chance the non-abusing parent would have of getting their kid(s) back with them.